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Sunday, 24 December 2006

Like the Dawning of the Morning

Mac, over at Mulier Fortis, (there you go, Mac, I gave you a link!) reminded me of Faber's hymn Like the Dawning of the Morning. Mention of both Newman and Faber on the same day! I am feeling so ecumenical - it must be Christmas.

I remember this hymn from my days at St Mary's Junior School in Croydon. Not long after I started there, my father became the Headmaster which meant that I had a - well strange - school experience. Advent was always heralded by us singing this hymn at morning Assembly. I loved it then and missed it for many years. About three years ago, I asked Brenda, our indefatigable parish organist, if she could find the score anywhere. In her magnificent cupboard with "things old and new" she found a copy in the Leeds Catholic Hymnal. It had been expunged from the Westminster Hymnal and never made an appearance in any of our modern "a few trad hymns and a thousand mindless ditties" books.

The version in the hymnal has only the first two verses and the last verse. Here is the full version as penned by Fr Faber and included in the 1849 Burns & Oates edition which I managed to purchase at a very reasonable price via the excellent Abebooks. It is number 44 and Faber entitles it "Our Lady's Expectation."
Like the dawning of the morning
On the mountains’ golden heights,
Like the breaking of the moon-beams
On the gloom of cloudy nights;
Like a secret told by Angels,
Getting known upon the earth,
Is the Mother’s Expectation
Of Messiah’s speedy birth.

Thou wert happy, Blessed Mother,
With the very bliss of Heaven,
Since the Angel’s salutation
In thy raptured ear was given;
Since the Ave of that midnight,
When thou wert anointed Queen,
Like a river over-flowing
Hath the grace within thee been.

On the mountains of Judea,
Like the chariot of the Lord,
Thou wert lifted in thy spirit
By the uncreated Word;
Gifts and graces flowed upon thee
In a sweet celestial strife
And the growing of thy Burden
Was the lightening of thy life.

And what wonders have been in thee
All the day and all the night,
While the angels fell before thee,
To adore the Light of Light.
While the glory of the Father
Hath been in thee as a home,
And the sceptre of creation
Hath been wielded in thy womb.

And the sweet strains of the Psalmist
Were a joy beyond control,
And the visions of the prophets
Burnt like transports in thy soul;
But the Burden that was growing,
And was felt so tenderly,
It was Heaven, it was Heaven,
Come before its time to thee.

Oh the feeling of thy Burden,
It was touch and taste and sight;
It was newer still and newer,
All those nine months, day and night.
Like a treasure unexhausted,
Like a vision uconfess’d,
Like a rapture unforgotten,
It lay ever at they breast.

Every moment did that Burden
Press upon thee with new grace;
Happy Mother! Thou art longing
To behold the Saviour’s Face!
Oh his Human face and features
Must be passing sweet to see
Thou hast seen them, happy Mother!
Ah then, show them now to me.

Thou hast waited, Child of David,
And thy waiting now is o’er;
Thou hast seen Him, Blessed Mother,
And wilt see Him evermore!
O His Human Face and Features,
They were passing sweet to see;
Thou beholdest them this moment,
Mother, show them now to me.
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